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Time to Treat Russia as a Partner

Published: September 23, 2008 (Issue # 1410)




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Before heading to Moscow to participate in the recent Valdai Discussion Club, I had the sense that the United States was on the verge of a new era of confrontation with Moscow that could prove far more dangerous and unstable than the previous Cold War. Alliances are more rickety and as the war last month in Georgia proves, communication is not always clear, with tragic results.

Suffice to say that the Valdai meetings did little to alleviate my concerns. The Russian presenters, with the exception of opposition figure Garry Kasparov, were all singing from the same song sheet: We dont want a new era of confrontation, but the choice is yours the United States.

And from the U.S. side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a powerful speech on Sept. 18, concluding, The decision is Russias and Russias alone. Obviously both Moscow and Washington have choices, but I have little confidence U.S. leaders will make the right ones that will enhance the security of the United States and Europe, let alone Russia. What Washington needs right now is not megaphone diplomacy with Moscow, but real diplomacy.

While the United States may deplore the Kremlins decision to invade Georgia and certainly its decision to rapidly and unilaterally recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia was wrong the consensus among Russian politicians and most people is that the Kremlin was right and justified. Although government propaganda on television is partially responsible for this national consensus, it also reflects the countrys catharsis after more than 15 years of perceived relentless geopolitical expansion of the West at Moscows expense.

President Dmitry Medvedev told us that when he spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush on the phone during the hostilities with Georgia, Bush asked him, What do you need this for? Medvedev responded, George, I had no choice, and if you were in my shoes you would have done exactly the same, only more brutally. Medvedev went on to say that if Washington chooses to expand ties with Georgia and arm it, Washington does so at its own risk.

When Medvedev said at Valdai, We will not tolerate any more humiliation, and we are not joking, I believed him. Russian history tells us that we should not underestimate the willingness of Moscow to spill blood to defend the countrys interests as it sees fit. At this moment, the United States needs to focus on that prospect rather than spend so much energy defending past policy.

The Kremlin perceives the Balkan war, NATO expansion, Kosovo independence and missile-defense deployment in Central Europe as having one thing in common the U.S. drive to flaunt its interests and ultimately contain if not weaken Russias geopolitical position. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, Washingtons strategy was to tell Moscow that these pro-U.S. measures were in Russias interests. The Bush administration has harped on Russias supposed obsession with zero-sum thinking, but the net result was the same the United States did what it wanted, and it did not take Russian interests seriously.

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Wednesday, Apr. 23


Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of societys most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.



Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.